February 2016

In a series of panels, Practising Law Institute experts discussed the various considerations and potential complications that can arise when bringing domestic violence cases before the court systems. The webinar, entitled “Addressing Domestic Violence Across Practice Areas 2016,” provided crucial information and advice in relation to handling trauma experienced by the victims, utilizing expert witnesses, and presenting different forms of evidence before the court. This and other webinars featuring experts in the legal field can be accessed at www.pli.edu.

Domestic Violence and IVP affects more than 12 million people each yearThe first of the three panels addressed the relationship between advocate and client, including best practices for building trust and managing interviews with a potentially traumatized victim. Advocates that are beginning to take domestic violence cases and seasoned domestic violence alike can benefit from an in depth look at strategies and complications that surround representing a victim of trauma.

The panel was moderated by Charlotte Watson, Executive Director, New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, New York State Unified Court System, and also included: Dr. Ruth Forero, Clinical Consultant, Supervisor and Psychotherapist; Jennifer C. Friedman, Managing Director, Center for Legal Services, My Sisters’ Place; Angela Yeboah, Deputy Director, Bronx Legal Project, Bronx Family Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families.

While advocates are often aware that there is a relationship that needs to be built between client and attorney in order to ensure the best services to the client, this is even more important when taking clients who have suffered domestic or intimate partner violence. Trauma can play a huge role in the life of a victim and reliving these moments can be triggering. As an attorney, it is crucial to understand how trauma works, and how best to work with your client to get what you need to represent them while building a sense of trust and partnership. Trauma presents differently in different people and understanding what questions or subject matter may provide a trigger for your client is integral to providing the best service possible.

Being up front, honest, and patient with your client is absolutely essential to building trust. The brain often responds to trauma by shutting down. This can present in a myriad of ways from extreme emotional outbursts to a total shut down of emotions. Dr. Forero suggests changing the subject, or asking questions that seem mundane if your client begins to present signs of triggering during interviews. For example, Dr. Forero discussed an incident where a client was triggered by the conversation and was exhibiting signs of trauma. She asked the client to take a deep breath and recite her social security number (it can be any number really, but something familiar). This seemingly irrelevant question helped the client to come back to the current surroundings and regain control over her immediate situation. While this is useful for helping the client regain control during an interview, it may be better to find more relevant questions should the client experience triggering while on the stand.

The interview process with a client is the cornerstone for all of the legal preparations involved in the case and it is very important for traumatized clients to feel safe and comfortable during this stage. The trust and relationship involved between attorney and client can take time and patience to create, and this is only that much more true for survivors of trauma. It can help to make sure that attorneys seem non-judgmental and to ask questions in a non-confrontational manner. For instance, explaining the reason behind asking certain intimate questions can help put the client at ease, and detailing the possible outcomes of the case can assist in keeping the expectations of clients grounded.

In building this relationship during the interview process, it can be useful to try phrasing questions in such a way as to show the client that you are on their side. For example, you may need to ask your client details they may not wish to provide, or are uncomfortable speaking on. By explaining to your client that these are questions the judge or prosecutor needs you to ask, it can deflect any animosity the client may feel being asked these questions off of you personally and simultaneously prepare them for the types of questions they may be asked to answer in court.

Other ways to build trust include ensuring safety measures, explicitly detailing the differences between confidentiality and attorney-client privilege, helping them to find support structures within the system, and supporting their choices even when you don’t agree with them. These victims should be seen as whole individuals and not just within the context of the legal case. Remember that the “perfect victim” doesn’t exist and attorneys should utilize whatever strategies are necessary to prepare their clients for what is coming next, always bearing in mind what your client is capable of handling.

To learn more about representing domestic violence victims, listen to additional panels from the presentation, or find the other resources offered by the Practising Law Institute, visit their website www.pli.edu.

Lecture Topics

  • Trauma Informed Lawyering
    Jennifer C. Friedman, Charlotte A. Watson, Angela Yeboah, Dr. Ruth Forero
  • The Expert Witness
    Deborah A. Kaplan, Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Kim Susser, Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda, Carmen M. Rey
  • Evidence
    Mary Rothwell Davis, Michelle Kaminsky, Betsy C. Tsai, Hon. Elyse Lazansky


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the
Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

As part of Practising Law Institute’s “Human Trafficking in Immigrant Communities” webinar a panel addressed special considerations for immigrant victims of human trafficking. Unlike domestic human trafficking victims, immigrants face additional hurdles related to their immigration status, cultural norms, and family hostage situations. Moderated by Melissa Brennan, Deputy Director of the Human Trafficking Initiative at Sanctuary for Families, the panel consisted of a human trafficking survivor under the pseudonym of Liberty, Hon. Pamela K. Chen a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, and Rosie Wang a Legal Fellow with Sanctuary for Families Human Trafficking Initiative.

Like thousands of trafficking victims in the United States, Liberty was lied to. She was promised an opportunity to come to the US, work as a nanny, and go to school. Instead, she was brought to the US, held hostage by traffickers, and forced to work. After hearing that others were being used like her, she was determined to put a stop to it and get justice for herself and others. She bravely went to a nonprofit organization, was paired with a pro bono attorney, and has been able to secure a T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) and eventually a green card. She is currently studying international relations and wants to work in human rights to fight for victims. With the help of legal service and pro bono volunteers, more stories can end like hers.

When representing immigrant trafficking victims, advocates must take a more holistic approach. Many clients may have concerns beyond their immediate immigration status that need to be addressed first. As an advocate for the survivor, it is crucial to gain the trust of your client and treat them as a whole person and not just their legal case. Nonprofit organizations and NGOs (Nongovernmental Organizations) play a crucial role in a victim’s experience during this process as they can provide assistance for those additional needs like housing, medical attention, education, etc.

Many victims are unaware of all of their options including their ability to qualify for the T visa, a specific visa set aside to protect human trafficking victims. While they may be aware of other visa options, this may be the best option for the survivors of human trafficking, but it is not without its hurdles.

Unfortunately, human traffickers can be resourceful when it comes to controlling their victims and sometimes go to enormous lengths to keep them compliant. A major tool traffickers and abusers use to control their victims is to instill a fear of law enforcement. Whether by making the victim feel complicit in illegal activities, or by convincing their victims that the police will deport them, throw them in jail, or won’t believe them, traffickers are able to prevent many victims from coming forward. To compound the issue, some immigrants may come from countries in which the police are corrupt, or testimonial evidence is not given much credence in a court of law. Many may feel ashamed, or are convinced that their situations are unique.

Additionally, traffickers may threaten the victim’s family in order to keep them from going to law enforcement. In these situations, it is possible for law enforcement to help get a trafficked person’s family out of danger. Inside the US, children can be found and a judge can rule on custody. In the event of family remaining in the country of origin, cooperation between US law enforcement and law enforcement on the ground in the country of origin can track down and bring family members of victims to the United States via parole which is approved and renewed by ICE. Once in the US, or once removed from the traffickers, family members can apply for the T visa derivative to extend benefits from the original T visa to the victim’s family.

In order to qualify for a T visa, an immigrant must first show that they were indeed a trafficking victim, and also cooperate with any reasonable requests from law enforcement if a criminal investigation is conducted. With such distrust of law enforcement taught to them, advocates must work with the survivors to ensure that they feel safe when speaking with law enforcement. However, building a bond of trust can have its own hurdles.

Victims of trauma are not always as forthcoming when talking about what happened to them. They may still feel loyal to their traffickers or they may be trying to protect other family members from implication. Also, they may even have a hard time comprehending that a pro bono lawyer is really there to provide services without an ulterior motive.

The panel provided sage advice for addressing these issues. Be up front and honest with your client. Explain the concept of pro bono. Lay out the details of confidentiality. Reassure them you are on their side. Make sure that they understand the difference between their immigration case and any ongoing criminal cases, and that the criminal case will not affect their T visa eligibility. Utilize programs offered by NGOs to get them additional assistance, as this can also go a long way towards building their trust. Most importantly, keep reassuring them that you are there to represent and support them

To hear Liberty’s story first hand and learn more about the considerations crucial to properly representing immigrant human trafficking survivors, watch the panel at the Practising Law Institute online.


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the
Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

Ethics discussions can be incredibly complicated. Often the correct ethical decision is dependent on multiple factors and interpretations. While usually ethics discussions focus on what a lawyer can do, Jennifer Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and the panel for the Practising Law Institute’s webinar “Ethical Issues in Pro Bono Representation 2015” ask pro bono attorneys to focus on what a lawyer can and should do in order to provide the best service to the client.

For pro bono attorneys, it is important to bear in mind the best interests of the client beyond the usual ethics as an attorney. Many clients in need of pro bono services may also be facing additional legal and other challenges that make their situation unique. Through the use of several hypothetical situations, the panel walked through various ethical issues that commonly arise while providing volunteer or pro bono service. From client-attorney relationship concerns to best practices, PLI’s webinar provides information and recommendations from experts in the field on the best ways to handle ethics quandaries that arise in practice.

For example, the first hypothetical situation handled a domestic abuse client seeking pro bono assistance who already had a lawyer handling an immigration claim. Unfortunately, in this hypothetical, the immigration claim submitted by the client’s other attorney did not align with the information the client provided to the pro bono attorney. The questions that arise in this situation hold various ethical connections and concerns.

First, should the pro bono attorney request to take on the additional immigration law dynamic? This question should be dependent on the pro bono attorney’s understanding and experience of immigration law, as well as the consideration of the client’s best interests. It also begs the question of how the pro bono attorney should discuss this option with the client themselves.

Many clients have difficulty deciding which lawyer to trust, and what decisions to make without a full and complete understanding of their rights and options. It is ethically, as well as practically, important that the attorney be honest and clear with the client, provide information and options in plain language so the client can understand, and allow the client to make their own decisions.

From here the hypothetical continued allowing the panel to discuss ethical questions that arise when dealing with immigration law, remediating false immigration statements, and providing multifaceted service to clients with multiple legal concerns.

The second hypothetical handles a situation of attorney client relationships when the issue of confidentiality is involved. In this hypothetical there are two individuals who are potential clients, a mother and her son. The son was referred to the attorney by the mother’s social worker who is currently in the hospital, and discusses various issues in regards to the mother’s housing situation. The son has moved in with the mother to help take care of her and to help with the rent. However, the intended client is the mother. Therefore, it is imperative for the attorney to make it very clear who they intend to represent, and ensure that if in representation of both clients, that they do not have any conflicting interests.

In this particular hypothetical, the mother has a complaint against the son which complicates the matter ethically. In the webinar, the panel discussed what these issues are and what options are available to the mother, son, and attorney in a situation of that kind.

With three additional hypotheticals, the panel discussed legal ethics hotlines, client retainer forms, unauthorized practice of the law, and best practices for speaking with clients who need translators. Access to this webinar is available here: http://bit.ly/1Nn8s2u


Professor Bruce A. Green – Director and Louis Stein Professor, Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics, Fordham University School of Law

Louis S. Sartori – Director, Pro Bono Practice, The Legal Aid Society


Erin M. Correale – Compliance Director, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Jennifer L. Kroman – Director of Pro Bono Practice, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Randye Retkin – Director and Founder, LegalHealth, New York Legal Assistance Group

Janet Sabel – Chief Deputy to the New York State Attorney General, New York State Attorney General Office (for institutional affiliational purposes only)

Program Attorney(s):

Janet L. Siegel – Program Attorney, Practising Law Institute


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the
Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

Are you an In-House Counsel with a resolution to do Pro Bono work in 2016? Are you a non profit looking to engage In-House Counsel volunteers? Watch this free webinar provided by the Practising Law Institute, partnered with Pro Bono Net!

To kick off the 7th Annual National Celebrate Pro Bono Week this past October, the Practising Law Institute partnered with Pro Bono Net to host a free webinar about matching up interested In-House counsels with pro bono projects and programs. The webinar, “In-House Counsel and Pro Bono – Making the Match,” was moderated by Pro Bono Net’s Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator, Niki DeMel, and featured panelists who were able to shed light on partnerships and programs with in-house counsels, including how they encourage participation, effectively run in-house counsel pro bono programs, and work with partners.

Each of the three panelists spoke about their organization’s efforts and they are outlined below.

Rachel Epps Spears, Executive Director for the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, discussed some of the challenges faced by in-house counsel in doing pro bono work, and how organizations can work with them to mitigate some of these challenges and garner participation. The most common issues voiced by in-house counsel include that they are not litigators, have no malpractice insurance, are not licensed in jurisdiction, have no pro bono infrastructure, have fewer colleagues than other attorneys, pro bono is not rewarded/recognized/allowed, and they don’t have enough time. Rachel offered various solutions and considerations to take into account when encouraging participation by in-house counsels. Her solutions, and more about how Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta works with in-house attorneys, can be found by watching the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Beth Henderson, Chair of Pro Bono Steering Committee at Microsoft Corporation, discussed several considerations that need to be made when creating and maintaining a successful in-house pro bono program. This included four very specific questions that should be asked when getting started: How do you define a successful in-house pro bono program; Is this something leadership supports and is willing to promote; Do certain countries restrict the provision of pro bono representation; How will you measure pro bono participation? After addressing these concerns, Beth highlighted some strategies to effectively manage an in-house pro bono program: Work with partners to develop pro bono opportunities that align with company interests and availability of potential volunteers; Develop an effective channel for evangelizing pro bono opportunities; Recognize the contributions and efforts of volunteers and partners; Highlight the value that pro bono service brings to the company. To learn more about these considerations and strategies, watch the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at the City Bar Justice Center for the NYC Bar Association, discussed how Legal Service Providers can partner with in-house counsels to perform pro bono work. These kinds of partnerships present different challenges as partnerships rather than individual programs and so require different considerations and solutions. Carol suggests that there are specific elements that are required for a successful partnership including identifying a point person at the corporation who is managing the pro bono program, and developing strong communication between the Legal Service Provider and the In-House pro bono professionals. To hear more about these elements and best practices for these partnerships, watch the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.


LHI logo

Online forms are a key tool in the movement to close the justice gap. They can be used from anywhere and at any time and are now a well understood component of a robust and diverse legal services delivery system.  According to LSC’S Report of The Summit on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice, “Technology can and must play a vital role in transforming service delivery so that all poor people in the United States with a civil legal need obtain some form of effective assistance.”

The open Request for Letters of Intent to Apply for 2016 LSC TIG Grant Funding includes document assembly as one of the areas of interest, as well as replication grants. In order to spark your ideas for document assembly projects, I’d like to share some ideas. These are ideal for programs that are new to document assembly and also for programs that had document assembly grants in the past and are now in a position to benefit from the ongoing advances being made.

We understand from our community that an area of particular interest is improving the relationship that user friendly web page design and ancillary tools (such as live chat and short videos) have on the ultimate use of your online form collection and the benefits to end users. We shared some of these ideas on our January LHI Community call. We also shared a current TIG-funded usability A/B testing project that’s being conducted in Minnesota. In case you missed the call, here is a link to the presentation.

Our LawHelp Interactive Resource Center (http://www.probono.net/LHI) includes sample documents from successful past projects that you can use to begin the process. There is a link for sample LOIs as well as sample narratives and budgets.  (Note: the LHI Resource Center requires a login. Please register or contact us if you need assistance accessing it.)

Below is a list of potential projects utilizing online forms. We encourage you to think holistically about your online forms project and reach out either Claudia Johnson (cjohnson@probono.net) or Mirenda Meghelli (mmeghelli@probono.net) to help you scope your project and identify projects that might lead to potential replication in your state.

  • Replicate LHI Connect for pro bono unbundled clinics and attorney use. This new LHI functionality will be available for replication by other groups this year. LHI Connect facilitates the sharing of documents through the back-end of LHI between a lawyer and client or pro bono coordinator. In September 2015, we showcased the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma project that partnered with Pro Bono Net to develop this new LHI capacity. 2015. To learn more about LHI Connect, go here.
  • Replicate Oklahoma’s new approach to pages for specific content.  As part of its expungement project, Oklahoma redesigned how it displays the information about expungement on its statewide website, OKLaw.org. Other states could take this project’s design, simplify areas of law where the process or requirements are complex, and apply it, providing users with initial information and forms in short paragraphs and a guided navigation to facilitate understanding of the issue.  More information about this project can be seen at the LHI Connect link above.
  • Produce a mini-guide for your high volume areas. “Mini-guides” (or “mini-portals”) are statewide website pages that have a dedicated URL and contain the essential resources and forms for a particular civil legal issue. This enables a person seeking information about that issue to find all the information in one place rather than in a list, or on multiple pages. They have been very successful in increasing the visibility of resources and in getting users to the online forms available for that subject area. For examples, visit http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/dissolution or http://www.lawhelpny.org/consumer.
  • Reinvest in your collection! Several states have seen form use go down. This may indicate that it is time to reinvest in your collection of online forms and come up with up a more strategic approach to using online forms. This might include updating your document assembly authoring software (HotDocs or A2J Author) to ensure a better user experience, or coming up with new approaches to content creation now that your project is mature. Part of this would include moving to authoring with HD 11 and A2J 5 for creating forms, sprucing up your forms based, updating them for changes in the law, and conducting  user testing to ensure the updates have maximum benefits for users.
  • Add Live Chat support for your form projects (either within LHI or through your statewide website). Live Chat is a powerful tool to help more people find and make use of what they are searching for online. It also supports multilingual users. Live Chat can be used in information and referral settings, and also in advice and counsel settings. Added to  online forms, this is a powerful combination.  Here is an example of a recently launched Live Chat collaboration focusing on foreclosure.
  • Evaluate your project in more depth. Replicate parts of the groundbreaking Michigan Legal Help project evaluation in order to see if cases filed with LHI forms take longer, get better outcomes, and help your program and their partners serve the public better. Answer the question: do forms empower end users? Find more information here.  The Michigan full report can be found here.
  • Add depth to your collection – beyond initial pleadings or answers – and also add LEP content. Add more public benefit tools, more self-help letters, civil rights and disability documents or complaints – think outside the box. There are many areas that online forms can enhance, outside of litigation. What are the unmet needs of your communities where an online form might offer a solution?
  • Replicate the New York Consumer/Bay Area Legal Aid Legal Consumer projects. There is now an increasing awareness of the needs of debtors. I’d encourage you to look at Human Rights Watch report on debt collection for more information. Here are two examples of consumer law projects that are modern and state of the art.  Other resources for consumer law projects can be found here.
  • Create an LHI-Powered Expungement project. Many states are using LHI forms to help youth and adults clear their records in order to have better access to jobs, housing, and equal opportunities under the law. Consider creating an expungement project for a particular demographic, language, or age group. There are many examples of projects doing this. Please reach out if you want more information.
  • Leverage library and community partners: Stand up virtual self-help centers and beyond! Illinois and Michigan have done an outstanding job creating self-help centers in remote locations and virtually with their statewide online forms as a key component. If your legal aid organization can’t have an office in a rural location consider a project where online forms are completed at public libraries or local community colleges and reviewed remotely by volunteers or attorneys. This increases the footprint of your legal aid work without an office.  An example of a virtual self-help center opening from Michigan can be found here.
  • Add videos to your forms collections to support users or advocates. Guides, tutorials, and visual tools go farther than written content. Help your users understand their case and process forms with great video stories.  See examples here.

In addition to these projects, there are many more ideas on how you can invest or reinvest in your online forms projects that can be found here.  If you are interested in online form integration with your case management system, e-filing, custom email projects, integration with other platforms (Neota Logic) or other platforms or mobile tools, please reach out to Claudia Johnson cjohnson@probono.net.

Put on your thinking caps and reach out if you need support!